If you're a fan of house or techno, at one point or another you've likely had someone mock your musical taste by saying something along the lines of, "Don't you get tired of just every song being boom-chik-book-chik?" (Note: no one ever sounds good doing this.) While many of us grow indignant, decrying this narrow-minded oversimplification, in reality, there's a voice inside saying "Yeah, kinda." After all, with the countless dance 12's, tapes, and digital releases coming out weekly, it can be hard to stand out in a field where functionality can outstrip sonic experimentation (see the DJ tool). I'll be the first to admit I'll usually put on a mix with the hopes of maybe finding one or two tracks that feel new and different.
Thus, rather than dutifully reviewing the top weekly releases that fall on my scanner, I'll instead be highlighting those 'new and different' dance singles, especially 12's, that remind you why you fell in love with dance music in the first place and just how gratifying a listening experience a perfectly-balanced EP can be, regardless of whether it came out last week or last year.
On their debut EP, the newly formed duo of Cosime make their vinyl debut in a big way with two unique takes on contemporary dance music with a dub version of the A side adding that extra dose of richly textured yet stripped-down dance music for the spacier heads. Space is indeed crucial to the pair's music, often pairing their nuanced sound design with silence to devastating ends. Comprised of friends Arif Malawi and Job Oberman, the Hilary EP was conceived during days spent on the Dutch islands, tanning and making field recordings that would form the basis for the three tracks on display here, released by Rotterdam-based label Nous'klaer Audio.
Equal parts organic and otherworldly, "Fyr" gradually comes to life as its guiding harmonic entity soon assembles itself into an ordered off-beat pattern that provides a rhythmic/melodic counterpart to the curt bass drum and rattlesnake-like percussion, not unlike a cybernetic polka. Sounding like a harpsichord rendered sentient, the granular, not-quite-distorted but certainly not-clean melodic line runs throughout the song's seven-plus minutes, stretching and contracting as it snakes between two warm notes, increasing and decreasing in volume and length as if of its own will. Soon its militant staccato is pecked at by yearning pads and melts into a delicious drone before regaining form and marching off into the moonlight. "Fyr (Version)" continues this monochromatic yet vivid tableau, its keys sharp as ever, beating relentlessly over a discombobulated kick drum and a relentless hi-hat rhythm, with a melancholic mantra providing an emotional undergirding.
In contrast to "Fyr's" contemplative and sprawling iterations, "Hilary" is an elegantly taut rhythmic workout that serves to showcase another more floor-ready side to the two producers. A hard 4/4 bass commences an extended build-up, with cavernous percussive accents and a sustained two-tone drone coming into the mix to create an almost beatific beat that serves as a fitting reminder as to why the club is often referred to as church. This hymnal-like build suddenly drops out at the track's half-way mark as the track bifurcates itself, machine gun-like snare hits punctuating the silence and signaling the start of a bare-bones and energetic second half. The concussive percussion returns as a snare is introduced on the two and four and loose sixteenth notes continue to glide across differently-tuned ride cymbals, adding an industrial momentum that guides "Hilary" to its conclusion.
While Hilary has flown under the radar since its April release, it's stuck with me for the past several months, a pleasant reminder of how dance music's constraints foster stunning sound design and rhythmic sophistication. Here's hoping the next release ups the stakes while growing Cosime's fan base.